We continue our focus on businesses that have monetized open source and discuss another core business tool which is being remade as a web-based application: the spreadsheet, by San Francisco-based Extentech, a leading developer of Java components and development tools. Founded in 1999 by John McMahon and Nicholas Rab, Extentech started as a consulting and custom development firm. The ExtenXLS Java Spreadsheet SDK was created during a custom Java development engagement and quickly became the focus of the business. In 2001, following a discussion over lunch about Java spreadsheets, John was struck with a vision of a platform that would convert spreadsheets into instant secure web applications that could be built by anyone with spreadsheet skills, and ExtenXLS 360 was born.
ExtenXLS 360 is a multi-platform document automation and collaboration tool created for corporates and small and medium sized businesses. Users can create documents such as spreadsheets and knowledge base articles and collaborate with groups in a web-based environment. ExtenXLS 360 supports Excel 2007 and boasts of many collaboration tools such as real-time document collaboration, chat, and fine-grained, role-based security and sharing. Further, users can retain full control of their data by storing document information in the database of their choice.
In 2008, Extentech opened up the ExtenXLS 5.0 source code as the open source project OpenXLS, and released the new version of their spreadsheet web application, Sheetster.com, as open source. By providing a flexible architecture, open source code, and the choice to store critical data on their own servers or databases, the company strives to mitigate vendor lock-in risks and give a future-proof option for critical document collaboration, automation and reporting services.
While many companies are coming out with SaaS-only models, Extentech aims to provide both a SaaS product and a downloadable, configurable, open source alternative. According to a Ventana research report, demand for spreadsheet management software is expected to reach $500 million by 2011 from $15 million in 2006. Since Extentech offers a cross-platform alternative, they hope to achieve 5% of the entire spreadsheet user market within five years.
Further, the company has lowered its barriers to entry with pricing models for different situations. Solutions like Sheetster—the web-based open source spreadsheet—are free and ExtenXLS 7.0, a spreadsheet SDK 7.0 supported product, is priced on a per CPU model. The E360 Professional Edition targets web developers and small businesses is priced at $5,000 for every two CPU servers, which includes unlimited users, support for reading and writing the Excel 2007 file format, one year of unlimited email support and all upgrades.
Extentech, which has been thriving for 10 years now, is a bootstrapped company that has never taken venture capital. However, as it moves into vertical BPM/BRM, the company is now open to financing, angel or corporate investment for an expansion/bridge round.
In those 10 years, the company has also attracted customers from major financial and Global 2000 companies including, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Hewlett-Packard, Accenture, H&R Block, BP, IBM and Toyota. They also have several OEM deals with Infoteria, RiskMetrics and AC Nielsen Corporation. The company had its first year of double-digit profits in 2008. Though revenues are currently under $1 million, they are projected to double year-over-year. To this effect, the company is taking a different approach to sales. Whereas in the past they would hire salespeople to serve strictly a sales function, today they are looking to hire sales trainers who educate the enterprise and SMBs on how to use the product so that it increases companies’ ROI.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009